Iceland is one of the most photogenic countries in the world. It’s very easy to navigate through with a Ring Road that covers the entire country in a loop and along the entire coastline. Driving this road will get you to so many highlights that it’s hard not to stop every 5 minutes.
Ring Road makes Iceland an amazing destination for road trips, especially family road trips.
Popular family travel destination
Iceland is a very popular travel destination for families. And that’s not a wonder. The landscapes are gorgeous and treats you to many natural phenomena that will blow your minds. Where else in the world can you find glaciers, active volcanos, geysers, waterfalls and northern lights in a country of this size?
The great infrastructure and size of Iceland makes it very easy for families to explore in two to four weeks. The following family Iceland road trip itinerary covers the entire country. With this guide provides everything you need for the best Iceland road trip with kids!
See also: Not to Miss Experiences in Iceland
Best time to travel to Iceland as a family
Iceland in the summer months
July and August are ideal if you want to access more remote areas with a 4WD car or campervan. It will still be windy, but not too cold. And you’ll also get some rays of sunlight on a daily basis.
Because of Iceland’s fickle climate it’s not uncommon that you’ll experience all four seasons in a single day multiple times during your trip. Be prepared for about 20 hours of daylight during these summer months.
Iceland in the winter months
You’ll get the chance to see the country’s stunning landscapes in a magical light. And take part in winter activities like ice caving and snowmobiling. Partly or completely frozen waterfalls and more impressive glacier lagoons are also must-sees in winter. And last but not least, you have a better chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, aka Northern Lights.
Road tripping through Iceland with young children
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Icelandic people are more reserved and quiet, but they are very warm towards kids. My toddler got many winks and smiles while we were there.
Speaking of toddlers, I wouldn’t road trip in a campervan or caravan outside of July or August. Even this time of year you have to hire warm bedding or sleeping bags. And bring tights, warm clothes and thick coats to keep everyone warm and comfy. Every other month of the year it just simply gets too cold to keep the youngest ones warm enough in a campervan. If you’re hiking with kids in a back carrier, make sure it has a raincover you can attach to it. It will keep the wind out and it keeps them dry.
Kids of all ages will have a blast in Iceland, with all that nature has to offer. Iceland is a great choice for a road trip with kids!
How to get around Iceland
Being a top travel destination, Iceland is extremely well connected by air.
Iceland has some great roads. If you stay on the Ring Road you can do this with a 2WD, F-roads are only (partially) possible with a 4WD. In winter some of these F-roads are closed, because they’re not safe to drive.
There are no trains in Iceland, but you can explore the country by bus. Buses are generally on time, clean and comfy. Just be aware that it’s quite expensive to travel by bus, and in winter, service might be limited due to the weather.
Epic family road trip around Iceland
This complete family road trip guide of Iceland is based around Route 1, aka the Ring Road or Hringvegurinn in Icelandic. Ring Road encircles the island and is approximately 1.333 kilometers long. This itinerary takes you along the entire Ring Road, but also takes you off road through all that Iceland.
The start of your family road trip through Iceland
The choice of heading north or south once on the Ring Road depends on the things you want to see and do. Things like being on time to spot orca’s or puffins are examples that likely influence your decision in regards to your starting point. We went north first and the following itinerary follows that example.
See also: Iceland for Kids: Tips and Activities
3 week family road trip itinerary Iceland
If you want to see and do all the highlights Iceland have to offer, you need about three weeks. That gives you time to check out this entire itinerary.
See also: Iceland 3 Day Itinerary
After you’ve arrived at Keflavik airport pick up your vehicle and head to Reykjavik. The city centre is relatively small. Everything is within walking distance and the things you have to see and do are:
- A visit to Hallgrimskirkja
- Check out architectural gem, Harpa
- Eat an Icelandic hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
- Check out souvenir shop Thor, your kids will love the huge wooden Thor in the shop
- Visit Whales of Iceland
- Go on a whale watching or puffin tour
- Get lost in the city and check out all the cute colored houses
To get a great sense of the city stay for 2 to 3 days before moving to the next spot.
See also: Staying in Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland
In the Reykjanes Peninsula make a quick stop at Graenavatn. A small lake with an appropriate name. Graenavatn translates to Green Lake. The lake is seafoam green due to the amount of sulphur in it. It’s about 45 meters deep in the centre and that’s the reason why the color is greener in the centre of the lake.
Shortly after you’ve left route 1 for route 35 you’ve entered the Grímsnes area of South Iceland. Here you’ll find an impressive crater lake, called Kerid. Vivid reds and greens (the latter depending on the season of course) outline the crater. Picture perfect azure colored water fills up part of the crater. Minerals from the rocks seep into the water, hence the color.
The first waterfall of many is one of the most iconic. If you’ve been researching for your Iceland road trip you most definitely have seen multiple pictures of this impressive waterfall. There are two cascades that make up Gullfoss. The first drop is about 11 meters and the second is longer, about 21 meters. Gullfoss means Golden Falls, which is where the Golden Circle got its name from.
Geysir & Strokkur
The next Golden Circle site is one of the most famous of the world. It’s a site that doesn’t disappoint. Geysir doesn’t spout anymore, but its sibling Strokkur does. Every few minutes it spouts water about 30 meters into the air. An awesome sight to see and hear!
After checking out Strokkur explore the rest of this hot spring area with boiling mud pits and a few smaller geysirs. You can also walk up to a great viewing point.
Þingvellir National Park is part of the Golden Circle and one of the three national parks of Iceland. Most people pick one thing to see in this park, as part of their Golden Circle tour. But it deserves a longer visit. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a wealth of things to see and do. Iceland’s largest natural lake can be found here, you can take a dive in the Silfra fissure, spot waterfall Öxarárfoss and follow some of the many hiking trails.
But the coolest thing is that visiting this park gives you the chance to stand on two continents at the same time. Can you imagine standing with one foot in Europe and the other in North America? Two tectonic plates, one being the North American plate and the other the Eurasian plate, collide in this park.
Worthy of a short visit is the Gerduberg Cliff. The Gerduberg basalt columns that reside on the cliff are perfectly symmetrical and it’s almost as if they were cut by hand. You can view them from below and walk up to them and be granted with a fantastic view all around you. The cliff is over a kilometer long and will surely impress you.
Seals of Ytri Tunga
About a 30 minute drive from the cliff, you’ll find a private beach called Ytri Tunga. The owner permits everyone to enter his land to check out the amazing wildlife there: seals.
You can find them chilling on the rocks next to the water and they’re unimpressed by humans. Some people came way too close, so please keep a decent distance from these wild animals and don’t disturb them.
Budir Black Church
As we are making our way up to the Westfjords we still have some sights to see in the gorgeous Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Like Búðakirkja, aka Budir Black Church. One of three black churches in Iceland. It’s not just the picture perfect black church, but also the surroundings that makes this site a must-see.
Lóndrangar are a collection of basalt volcanic dykes sticking out from the ocean. They are the remainders of a crater, which has been eroded to its current form by the sea. Many refer to Lóndrangar as a castle built on a cliff reaching out at sea.
Walk up to a viewpoint where you get rewarded with amazing views all around, lots of seagulls resting on the edges of the cliffs and if you’re lucky with a few puffins.
You can get a little closer to Lóndrangar. Just follow the trail on the right side of the parking lot and this hiking trail will lead you almost unto the beach. They seem to open and close the beach every now and then. When you visit this beach be sure to check if it’s open or not.
By the way, as the saga goes, this land belongs to elves. They like it quiet, so make sure you don’t disturb them while you’re here. This story will definitely be a hit with the kids. They’ll look for them in every nook and cranny.
A 15 minute drive from Lóndrangar you’ll find Saxhóll Crater. Although this crater isn’t filled with azure blue water like Kerid, it is still cool to stand on top of it. Just think about the fact that it once shot boiling hot magma from the earth, sculpting the landscape all around you.
From the top of the crater you get great views over the Atlantic Ocean and the dried lava fields of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The cute fishing town of Ólafsvik only has 1000 inhabitants. It is a great village to stay in if you want to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Enjoy your time birdwatching, hiking and exploring the beaches.
Ólafsvik is also a great town to book a whale watching tour. And from February to early July you can even spot orca’s while out at sea. This is the best area in Iceland for an encounter with killer whales.
Kirkjufell is one of the highlights of Iceland. You can find Kirkjufell on the north shore of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður
With its pointy peak this impressive mountain comes in sight a few minutes before you park your car on the small parking lot right next to route 54. You can hike around it and climb it in 1,5 hours, but it is quite a steep climb, not advisable with young kids who aren’t steady or somewhat experienced walkers yet.
Across the road from Church Mountain (meaning of the word Kirkjufell) you’ll find a small yet gorgeous waterfall, named Kirkjufellsfoss. Don’t just check out the waterfall, but walk around it and right there you can shoot the perfect picture of Kirkjufell Mountain with Kirkjufellsfoss right in front of it.
If you or your teens are fans of Game Of Thrones then Kirkjufell Mountain is probably on your bucket list. This mountain is the backdrop of many scenes in the show.
Like Olafsvik, Hólmavik is a cute little fishing town. And it is a great place to start a whale watching tour from. It’s more quiet than Reykjavik, Akureyri and Olafsvik. This isn’t because you have lower chances of spotting whales. There simply isn’t much else to do in this fishing town besides eating delicious seafood and whale watching. And that’s reason enough to stop here for a day.
In Húnaflói Bay a 15 meter tall basalt rock stack protrudes from the water. A wondrous thing. Icelandic people call it the troll of Northwest Iceland, but my family and I believe it looks more like a dragon drinking from the water. Others believe it looks like an elephant or a rhino.
Don’t just pass right by it on the beach, but make sure to walk the 400 meter viewpoint trail and you get to see it like in our pic below.
Time for another city trip. The capital of the north: Akureyri. Located about 100 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, it’s an important fishing centre and port and has lots to offer to tourists. Don’t be surprised to find cruiseships in its harbor. Akureyri is definitely worth visiting, and more and more people are aware of that.
You don’t need more than a day here, make sure to visit Akureyri’s Botanical Garden, for a nice stroll with the kids. You will spot lots of arctic plants here, because of its near vicinity to the Arctic Circle. And after that stroll it’s time for some ice cream. Get it from Brynjuís, known in Iceland as the place that sells the best soft serve ice cream in the country.
See also: Not to Miss Cities of Iceland
Lake Mývatn and its surroundings is an area so beautiful, that you should stay here for a few days. This area is part of the northeastern answer to western Golden Circle: the Diamond Circle. Mývatn means mosquito lake and that seems like a suitable name. Iceland doesn’t have mosquitos, but it has midges, which is pretty similar. And you can find plenty of them around here. But don’t let the midges stop you from visiting the lake. Its geology is insanely beautiful because it sits about an incredibly active geothermal area. On the lake you will spot multiple tiny islands, that are referred to as pseudocraters, but are in fact basalt columns.
Besides hiking around the lake, you can do lots of other kid friendly hikes here or ride to the Víti volcano. But the absolute top thing to do in Mývatn is a visit to its nature baths! A family activity that everyone will most definitely enjoy. Forget about the extremely busy Blue Lagoon (book your tickets online first). Here you will find true serenity and relaxation as a family. Enjoy a drink in the water and the beautiful surroundings.
Dettifoss & Selfoss
Dettifoss is known as one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. A true highlight of the Diamond Circle route. When you get close enough, you will feel the ground shaking under your feet. And it is loud! Impressive on all accounts.
Upriver you’ll find smaller, but wider and no less beautiful, Selfoss.
To get to both viewpoints takes a little hike, but a beautiful one.
The Arctic Henge can be found in Raufarhöfn. It’s located on the Melrakkaslétta Peninsula, the northernmost village on the Icelandic mainland. Only the island of Grímsey, lies further north.
Like Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a huge sundial. The stone arches on site are arranged to capture the light of the Midnight Sun as it moves across the sky in summer. To name an example, on June 21st it aligns perfectly with the south arch.
Stuðlagil Canyon was created when river Jökla forced its way from the highlands to the North of the island. You can find it in Eastern Iceland in a glacier valley called Jökuldalur. Standing in and around the valley you can spot high and very impressive basalt columns. You can take multiple hikes around the canyon and through it.
Our teen said that walking through it made him half expect to see magical creatures like dragons or unicorns. We agreed, it’s kind of otherworldly and certainly a magical place that takes your breath away!
Egilsstaðir is a great place to stay to discover the area around this village. There’s not much to do in the town itself, besides shopping, having a meal at one of the restaurants and going to the visitors centre.
Egilsstaðir is the best town in Eastern Iceland to serve as a base to visit the Vök Natural Baths, hiking in Hallormsstaðaskógur forest and searching for Lagarfljót Wyrm at Lagarfjlót lake.
Who’s Lagarfljót Wyrm? The more vicious sibling of the Loch Ness monster, a venom spouting worm!
See also: Traditional Foods in Iceland
Near Lagarfjlót you will find a very special waterfall, that deserves a separate spot in this ultimate road trip guide of Iceland. And that’s Hengifoss. Park the car and hike your way up to Hengifoss in about an hour. It’s a beautiful scenic hike up and you shouldn’t forget to look back behind you, because walking up means you get a great view of your surroundings, for instance of Lagarfjlót lake.
On your way up you’ll first see a mini version of Hengifoss, fittingly named Litlanesfoss.
Hengifoss is surrounded by layers of basaltic strata with thin layers of red clay in between. It looks like a chocolate cake filled with jelly and it’s a beautiful sight. We walked around and sat down for a bit. Surrounded by sheep easily navigating their way through rocks and pebbles and unphased by our presence.
The water coming down from both Hengifoss and Litlanesfoss ends up in lake Lagarfjlót.
Seyðisfjörður is your last stop in East Iceland and is a small and cute village. It’s known for its rainbow road leading up to a church. A lot of the 700 residents of this town and most of the local businesses pitched in to color the bricks and show their support to the LGBTQ community. On both sides of this street you’ll find local shops and restaurants. Very photogenic and cute!
The next two places in this complete family road trip guide of Iceland are located right next to each other. First is Diamond Beach, a strip of volcanic black sand filled with large chunks of ice from the icebergs. A magical thing to see for the whole family.
I recommend visiting Diamond Beach early in the morning. If you want to take pictures without large crowds of people taking selfies with it and you want your kids to have room to play around a bit, you have to be there around 8am or 9am. It will be worth it!
Jokulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
On the other side of the bridge you’ll find Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Both Jökulsárlón and Diamond beach are part of the Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain. Where else in Europe do you get the chance to hang out at and on a glacier lake filled with different sizes of icebergs?
I highly recommend booking a trip on an amphibian boat tour and explore the lagoon. They offer life vests for all their guests and there’s no age limit, so you can also bring your baby or toddler along, they have life vests on offer in all sizes.
Don’t forget to search for seals. You’ll see them chilling on the ice and hunting for fish in the water.
Skaftafell is the place to be for hikers. Short and easy trails lead you to sites like waterfall Svartifoss or Skaftafellsjökull. There’s also a large campsite here where I advise you to stay (pre-booking advised during the high season). They offer all the amenities you need, there’s a restaurant on site and there’s also a visitor centre where you can find hiking maps, buy souvenirs or book a tour to go on a glacier hike.
See also: Tips For Camping In Iceland
The basalt rock columns that you can see at Reynisfjara beach are the same type as at Stuðlagil Canyon. But in a much different setting. Located at a beach with beautiful black sand, you’ll find these basalt columns perched against the rock wall. But that’s not all. When you look out at sea, you’ll see basalt pillars in different shapes and sizes coming out the water looking like a bunch of impressive giants.
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
In the beginning of the 70s, an American plane crashed at a black beach in Sólheimasandur. They never removed it and what’s left of the plane became a real tourist attraction. It takes two hours to hike up there, so that might be a challenge for smaller children. But it’s an easy hike and a beautiful scenic one.
There’s no sign to show you the way. Just search for Sólheimasandur parking lot in Google Maps, park your car there and start your hike.
A hike up to the plane wreck in Sólheimasandur is not possible during winter time. You won’t be able to drive up to the parking lot. Which is your starting point of the hike.
You’re almost at the end of your family road trip through Iceland. Luckily you still get to admire some last gems, while slowly heading back to the airport. Starting with two of the most famous waterfalls of Iceland. The first being Skogafoss.
As soon as you park the car, you get a first glimpse of Skogafoss. A small strip of black sand beach leads up to this high waterfall. Truly impressive. On the right of the waterfall there’s a steep wooden staircase that gives you the opportunity to walk all the way up to the top of the waterfall. Offering great views of course!
Last waterfall, but certainly not the least is Seljalandsfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls. And not without reason. You can walk behind it! A cavern behind it gives you the chance to walk around the entire waterfall.
Top tip: visit early in the morning, otherwise you’ll be walking there with hundreds of other tourists on a day tour from Reykjavik.
The trail behind the fall is muddy and the rocks slippery. I wouldn’t advise to let an unsteady toddler walk by itself. At the end you have to climb a little bit over slippery rocks. Which brings me to my second tip: wear a raincoat or a poncho, you’ll get soaking wet!
This one’s for the kids. End your road trip at Valhalla Restaurant and Saga Center. Kids can learn about the history of vikings, and sagas like the stories about valhalla. End your visit with lunch or dinner in the restaurant. You’ll be eating great burgers and fries in viking style!
That’s it! After visiting Hvolsvöllur you either end your trip in Reykjavik (a 1,5 hour drive) or drop off your vehicle in Keflavik (a 2 hour drive) and fly back home.
I hope this complete family road trip guide of Iceland helps you with your itinerary.
Iceland offers lots to see and do for adults and kids. You’ve seen towering waterfalls, swam in geothermal baths, visited black sand beaches and your kids searched for fairytale creatures. The land of ice and fire is a great and easy destination for a family road trip!
Are you in need of more family travel guides of Iceland? Like guides to the Diamond and Golden Circle or a city guide of Reykjavik. Then visit Sas Crossing Countries and check out all her Iceland family travel articles.